another car dilemma- advice wanted - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 18 Old 01-05-2011, 09:39 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Two weeks ago, it was a snowy day and someone skid down a hill and into me. Everyone is fine- but the car has some damage to the drivers side. It would cost $1800.00 to fix it.

 

Here is my dillema: repair the car or junk it?

 

The car is a '99 caravan. While that seems old- it only has around 55K (a little less) miles on it. We bought it used (it was a car used by the federal gov't) with the 38K , and  have only put about 5K miles on it per year. (I recently got a new job, and we moved further away from our childrens school, so  that number will increase to about 8K miles per year).   We have had minor  issues with it- I think there was a leak in the transmission fluid, but that was it.  We own the car free and clear.

 

I think the frugal thing to do would be to put $1800 in it and be done. However, my concern is that it will be $1800 now, and then in another year, some expensive mechanical issue, etc.... I don't know when the cutoff for "No, I am not putting any more $$ into a '99 car."

On the flip side, people are telling me that they easily got to 80, 100, and 125 K miles on their Dodges from the same period, so there is a strong possibility that I can have another 30-60K  miles on it.

 

I am in a position to purchase a new-to-me minivan (ie- I have $$ for a down payment, but would need to take out a car loan).  but I want to make a financially smart descion. I don't want to be "penny wise and pound foolish."  Yes, I can take on a monthly car payment without stress, but is it wise? On the other hand, is it wise to put $1800 on a car from 1999, that doesn't have a fabulous track record in terms of reliability?

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#2 of 18 Old 01-05-2011, 10:00 AM
 
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Your insurance won't cover any of the repair?  Is the damage just cosmetic or does it impair the functionality of the car.

 

Where I live a 99 is not that old of a car, so if the damage is not just cosmetic I would repair it.  If the damage is just a dent I think I would probably live with it.   Especially since you know that it is a reliable car having tested it with time.

 

Not to mention that we live much too much in a throw away society...even if you have to put money into the car it means that you are consuming less resources in the end, and that is a good thing.

 

Just to put it into perspective payments on my car when it was new were $360 a month.  So your repair would be covered in six months.  There is much to be said for owning a car free and clear.

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#3 of 18 Old 01-05-2011, 10:10 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Sorry I didn't clarify:

 

1) The accident has been determined to be a no-fault accident, because of the snowy conditions on the road.  That means that each driver is going through his own company. I didn't have collision insurance on my '99 caravan (now I know better!)

 

2) As far as we know, at this point, the damage is cosmetic and not mechanical. However, it's damage that needs to be fixed. The sideview mirror is totally smashed in, making changing lanes very difficult/dangerous. Also the doors on the drivers side do not open and close properly.

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#4 of 18 Old 01-05-2011, 10:23 AM
 
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Could you replace the same car for 1800?  I guess that is how I would look at it with a car that age.  With only 55k on it I would fix it, that thing should run to at least 100k without any major issues.

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#5 of 18 Old 01-05-2011, 10:27 AM
 
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If you don't mind what it looks like, you could look at getting complete new door from a junk yard. You might get lucky and get the same color even :)

 

Personally, I'd have it fixed. We've almost always driven older cars. And had good luck with them even when it feels like we aren't.

 

Case in point, I had a 1989 Suburban that felt like it was always nickel and diming us for repairs, but when I complained to DP after the transmission went out ($3300 repair!). He went back over the 4 years we'd owned the car and added all the repairs, took out the oil changes/tire costs (since you have those with every car!) and he came back with a number. He said, if you can find a new car, as reliable as this one which will last us for the next 4 years with NO additional repairs for $75/month....feel free.  

 

So in other words....our Suburban was 'costing' us an average of $75 a month in repairs even though it seemed like it was a lot! There is no way I could find something else that would require NO repairs for 4 years at $75 month! Better to fix what we had, and budget the $75/mo towards future repairs OR it could end up as a downpayment on another car if something happened to the Suburban and it was a total loss.

 

You could try a similar thing with yours. See how much you've actually have paid out and average it over the time you've owned the car.

 

The frugal thing usually is to fix it, and keep it :)


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#6 of 18 Old 01-05-2011, 10:40 AM
 
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I would find another place to repair it for less than $1800 and get it fixed.

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#7 of 18 Old 01-05-2011, 11:09 AM
 
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When you are getting quotes for repairs, tell the repair place that it is NOT going to be covered by insurance. Some places will be more reasonable. (At least that's the way it is here - they charge a lot when the insurance is covering it, but some places will give you a better deal if they know you are paying privately). You might need to shop around a bit. We had a similar situation several years ago. Most places were quoting over $1000, but we found one who did it for $350 because we were paying for it ourselves (and they did a perfect job too).

 

ETA: Oh, don't wait too long, if rust might be a concern (that makes it more expensive to repair).

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#8 of 18 Old 01-05-2011, 11:45 AM
 
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I agree with shopping around, and telling them up front that it is not through the insurance you are paying cash.  Don't go to the place that is doing all the insurance work, go find the place that is doing the cash work.  It might not be a 'perfect' repair, but it should look almost the same to the untrained eye with working doors.


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#9 of 18 Old 01-06-2011, 07:09 AM
 
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Definitely get it fixed. We bought a new Grand Caravan in 1996, and drove it for 10 years and about 130K miles. We did replace the transmission twice (a common issue with that particular model), but other than that it served us very well.

 

Even if you only drive it for one more year, you'll come out ahead.


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#10 of 18 Old 01-06-2011, 08:37 AM
 
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For us, the cutoff has been when we have enough cash saved up to buy the next car without a loan.   

 

 

 

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#11 of 18 Old 01-06-2011, 09:17 AM
 
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We have a 2000 Grand Caravan and I have about 110K on it.  It is still ticking along just fine.

 

I would keep your van.  I agree with suggestions to get it fixed more cheaply.  As about refurbished parts, etc.

 

Last year a guy slammed into the side of our van and he was not insured.  The original quote for repairs were for "totaling" the van.  I have, IMO, a good 3 or 4 more years left in that van.  That gives us more time to save up to replace it (we don't get car loans, just buy what we can with what we have saved).  The repair shop worked to get used parts so that it would come in under the cost that would force us to total the van.  I'm sure you can find a repair shop who would work with you to lower the cost of repairs.

 

It is absolutely in your best interest to keep this vehicle as long as you can.  An $1800 repair is really not worth going into debt to get a new vehicle when the current one runs just fine and I really think you could probably get that price reduced if, as others have said, you shop around.  Good luck!

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#12 of 18 Old 01-06-2011, 10:09 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HappyLamb View Post

Sorry I didn't clarify:

 

1) The accident has been determined to be a no-fault accident, because of the snowy conditions on the road.  That means that each driver is going through his own company. I didn't have collision insurance on my '99 caravan (now I know better!)

 

2) As far as we know, at this point, the damage is cosmetic and not mechanical. However, it's damage that needs to be fixed. The sideview mirror is totally smashed in, making changing lanes very difficult/dangerous. Also the doors on the drivers side do not open and close properly.


In this particular situation it stinks that you don't have collision, but overall that probabily is the way to go with a car that old and paid. 

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#13 of 18 Old 01-06-2011, 11:19 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all for your insights. It was really helpful. We're going to call around and see if we can find another place to repair it. My husband is taking care of it, and I told him, "make sure to tell them that we're paying for it, not an insurance company." :)

 

After reading what you all wrote, I thought of this: let's say that we spend $1800 to fix the car. That's $1800 that we would anyway put on a down payment for something new, so we can look at that as "gone."   We were considering buying a used Sienna, and figured with a 30% down payment, we would have a car loan of about $300 for about 3 years.  Following me?

 

So let's say, every month, I put away the $300 into a separate bank account (instead of paying a car loan).  At the end of 6 months, I have $1800, and have then broken even. For every month after that that I keep the car, then I am saving $300!  

 

When I look at it this way, I feel SOOOO much better about keeping this car, even though it's old and kind of dumpy looking. I think that maybe my original view was kind of tainted because I see a lot of people driving around in newer Siennas, Odysseys, etc... around here, so I kind of got it in my mind, "a '99 car is really old."

 

Thanks everyone for all of your persepctives. I think I really needed to hear them!

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#14 of 18 Old 01-06-2011, 06:44 PM
 
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WTG :)   It's 'just transportation' is what I tell myself :) It gets us safely to point A and B and home again. It does what it's 'job' is and it doesn't matter if it's 10 years or 20 years old. :) 

 

And you're right....at $300/mo you're 'paid off' in 6 mos. :)  Where you'd still have another 2.5 YEARS with a "new" one PLUS additional repair costs!


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#15 of 18 Old 01-10-2011, 11:34 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mnnice View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by HappyLamb View Post

Sorry I didn't clarify:

 

1) The accident has been determined to be a no-fault accident, because of the snowy conditions on the road.  That means that each driver is going through his own company. I didn't have collision insurance on my '99 caravan (now I know better!)

 

2) As far as we know, at this point, the damage is cosmetic and not mechanical. However, it's damage that needs to be fixed. The sideview mirror is totally smashed in, making changing lanes very difficult/dangerous. Also the doors on the drivers side do not open and close properly.


In this particular situation it stinks that you don't have collision, but overall that probabily is the way to go with a car that old and paid. 


Even if she had collision, she may not have been able to use it AND keep the van.

 

That amount of damage would have probably resulted in the insurance company declaring the van totaled, and you may only get the money for a totaled vehicle by surrendering the vehicle.

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#16 of 18 Old 01-10-2011, 05:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Update:

 

We took the van in today to a few other places. Unfortunately, no other place was able to do it for significantly less than $1800. All the quotes were in the same ball park, but it's cheaper than 5K down followed by $300 a month car payment. :)

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#17 of 18 Old 01-11-2011, 08:46 AM
 
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WTG Happy Lamb :)   Your wallet will thank you in the end :)


~Mama to my boys~ to a teen, a tween & a toddler and surro-mama to twins and their sister

Livin' in the sticks with my chicks chicken3.gif and lovin' it!

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#18 of 18 Old 01-11-2011, 09:13 AM
 
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I still think you made the right choice.  I drove a 99 Caravan for a number of years, and by the time we traded it in, we had put about 130K miles on it, and it was still running great.  We did have to have the transmission replaced, but that was the only thing that ever went wrong with the vehicle (other than us hitting a deer ;))

 

I'm now driving a 2003 Grand Caravan with 128K miles on it, and we haven't had a single mechanical issue with it.  I'm planning to drive it for several more years.


New signature, same old me: Ann- mama of 2 boys and 2 girls, partnered to a fabulous man.
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